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  1. 1. Fall 2008 Issue 6 Blogging in the Deaf Education Classroom Inside this issue: In the United States alone, there are The latest research points to nearly 113 million blogs (Helmond, 2 Letter from Sharon 2008). Approximately 12 million Ameri- numerous benefits of blogging can adults publish blogs and 57 million What’s on my bookshelf 3 including student engagement, Americans read them (Lenhart & Fox, 2006). A blog is a website where en- authentic voice, and interaction and Blogging in the Deaf 4-5 tries are typically displayed in reverse Education Classroom awareness of diverse perspectives chronological order. The purpose of Books I’m looking for- 6 Ellison & Wu, 2008; Ferdig & Trammell, 2004; blogs ranges from personal interest to ward to reading Wickerson & Chambers, 2006 public forum. Thanks for Giving me a 6 When I started my Deaf Characters Head’s Up! blog in 2007, I did not plan to become a allowed the students immediate access 7 Awards & Honors “blogger” nor did I have any plans for to their work and that of their peers. my blog. I simply opened an account The latest research points to numerous How to Start Blogging 7 and added a list of books connected benefits of blogging which includes with my research. It took me three student engagement, authentic voice, months to begin posting on a regular Author Websites 8 and interaction and awareness of di- basis. Since that time, blogging has verse perspectives. Researchers con- become a way for me to keep my re- clude that student blogging encour- search current; and, it enables me to ages engagement in learning (Ellison & become part of a cyber community Wu, 2008; Ferdig & Trammell, 2004; made up of other bloggers and read- Wickerson & Chambers, 2006). When ers. students blog, they collect, publish and After attending a presentation that fo- then edit their work after receiving cused on a group of ESL students who feedback and having time for reflec- used blogging in their English class, I tion. Blogs allow students to easily felt inspired to “try out” blogging with navigate through their work since blog my students. My class was made up of posts are organized in a reverse a group of Deaf college freshmen in a chronological order. My students noted Developmental English classroom. I improvements in both the quantity and quot;Girl Readingquot;(1938) found that blogging in an English class- the quality of their work. by Isadore Weiner room can be an effective tool for both academic and reflective writing that (Continued on page 4)
  2. 2. Page 2 Letter from Sharon Dear Readers, Yes, I realize that you will technically be receiving this Fall issue in the Winter. I can give you a whole list of reasons why this issue has been put aside numerous times; however, I think if I simply label myself as “educator”, you all can nod your heads in agreement because you too understand the feeling of having too many responsibilities on your plate. The main focus of this issue is about Blogging in the Deaf Education Classroom. As most of you know, I run the Deaf Charac- ters in Adolescent Literature Blog ( What you might not realize is that I have several other blogs. All of them are educational in some way. Let me back up a bit. In April, I attended a workshop on blogging at the TESOL Convention. The focus of the workshop was a group of ESL students who used blogging in their college– level English course. I was already five weeks into my semester with a group of Deaf students who were taking a developmental English course and decided to give blogging a shot. I honestly did not believe that it would work with my students. It wasn’t because of the national statistics revealing that deaf seniors’ writing skills are below average compared to their hearing peers but because my students were often too embarrassed to share their writing with each other during class. I figured that even if I “forced” them to write in a blog, they would never really feel engaged. I was so wrong! They loved it and continually found ways to amaze me. When I assign a project, like running a blog, I always participate along with my students. During the Fall semester when I was asked to teach a “regular” English 102 group, I immediately knew that I would have them create blogs. While the course and students were very different from the original developmental English class, the benefits were again amazing. I’m still sorting through the assessment data from my recent blog project but each students’ final post on their thoughts about blogging really is the key. Here is an excerpt from one of my students’ blog posts: My first thoughts will obviously show that I didn't care about this. The message is pretty much simple, I do this because I am forced to do this in order to get credit. I hate to read and think...... support from my class and professor made me feel that I am part of this work. In order to have class discussions and feedback, everybody needs to do their blogging. Throughout the semester I felt important to the group and I got all my questions answered when I wasn't sure about the story. Sharon shouldn't stop this blogging method, its great for students to do this. I'm sure y'all will agree. My overall opinion about this blogging thing is pretty sim- ple. It's great and easy to use. Students will appreciate blogging more than writ- ing and bringing papers to class. I would like to thank my professor who was a great support throughout the semester. Thanks y'all for the great and fun class discussions, it was the best in my life. I love that his post is so honest. Of course it makes me laugh because he doesn’t like to “think”. While for confidentiality rea- sons I can not share my student blog addresses, you’re welcome to check out my blog At the time of this letter, I have 193 contemporary books listed including some upcoming publications on the quot;100+ Books and Countingquot; list on my Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature Blog ( Feel free to contact me at Happy Reading and Happy Holidays, Sharon Pajka-West, Ph.D.
  3. 3. Page 3 What’s on my bookshelf Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech My Heart Glow: Alice (September 2008) Cogswell, Thomas Gallau- Reading level: Ages 9-12 det, and the Birth of Ameri- Hardcover: 160 pages can Sign Language by Emily Vendor: Harper Collins Arnold McCully (July 2008) The sequel to Love That Dog, Hate Picture book: 40 pages That Cat: A Novel, picks up another Publisher: Hyperion Books year of Jack's life with teacher Miss for Children Stretchberry. Readers discover Children’s author, illustrator that main character Jack is a CODA; and Caldecott Medal winner his mother is Deaf and uses sign language to communicate! Emily Arnold McCully invites us to take another look at this While Mom isn’t a main character, she holds a pivotal role touching story of how “one little girl inspired a whole new throughout the book. language- as well as the school where it could be taught”. From A to Zulinski by Deb Piper This picture book shares their story and recounts how Gallau- (May 2008) det's interest in teaching Alice carries him on a long journey Reading level: Ages 9-12 that eventually leads to the nation's first school for the deaf. In Paperback addition, a beautifully written author’s note offers more de- Vendor: Royal Fireworks Publishing tails about American Sign Language and Alice’s life after at- This is the third volume in series follow- tending school. ing Jake's the Name, Sixth Grade's the Signs of Jays (October 2008) by Linda Kurtz Kingsley Game and followed by his exploits in Reading Ages: Ages 4-9 Those Sevy Blues. Publisher: Jason & Nordic Publishers Jake has reached high school gradua- When narrator Pete and his mother tion. The book is a series of flash backs rescue two abandoned Scrub-Jays, his about his time as a deaf student main- friend Mike, who is deaf, and other streamed in a public school. deaf and hard of hearing students help take on the responsibility of car- Hands of My Father by Myron Uhl- ing for the baby birds. His mother berg (February 2009) explains that just like the students in Reading level: Crossover/ Adult her class who are preparing to main- Hardcover: 256 pages stream, the jays are being prepared Vendor: Bantam to mainstream back into the wild. This story is very much Uhlberg’s account of growing up the about bridging the communication between deaf and hearing son of deaf parents whom he adored. children and how two boys overcome their barriers of com- From the beaches of Coney Island to munication to become friends. Ebbets Field, where he watches his The title holds a double meaning. While this is a beginning father’s hero Jackie Robinson play “sign” language book, Pete and Mike are waiting for a “sign” ball, this is a memoir filled with sto- from the birds that they have raised and freed into the wild. ries about growing up not just as the child of two deaf peo- The book includes twenty-four signs and beautiful watercolor ple but as a book-loving, mischief-making, tree-climbing illustrations of children using American Sign Language and kid during the remarkably eventful period that spanned the wearing hearing aids. Depression, the War, and the early fifties.
  4. 4. Page 4 (Blogging in the Deaf Education Classroom cont.) mation. Many deaf and hard of hearing students are (Continued from page 1) considered visual learners and are “best able to under- One of the benefits of blogs is that they are interactive. stand and remember content when they can see it Ferdig & Trammell (2004) explain that students who graphically represented” (Kluth, 170). blog become active participants in a community of Once I asked students to establish classroom blogs they practice and are exposed to diverse perspectives. almost immediately demonstrated an increase in moti- Buffington (2007) notes that blogs supported social in- vation and enjoyment in completing writing assign- teraction when she engaged in blogging with her stu- ments. While they were given specific assignments, dents. She explains that this interaction outside of the they showed creativity by selecting topics that were of classroom helped maintain the students’ momentum in interest to them. For example, I asked students to read their course work, and the accessibility of blogs en- an article from any on-line newspaper and answer: abled her students to interact even when they lived a Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How, and then significant distance from campus. write a one-paragraph summary of the article that in- Since blogs include both written and graphic compo- cluded their opinion. The students were required to cite nents where text along with visuals come together to their articles by using the hyperlink function. This en- form meaning, blogging may benefit deaf students. abled readers to simply click on the text and go to the Kluth (2008) reports that research on visual supports, original source. While I encouraged my students to se- including graphic organizers, handouts, manipulatives, lect articles that interested them, many selected news and other visual representations of information are im- articles that were both poignant and serious in nature. perative for deaf and hard of hearing students when Students motivated one another through their posts. For they are learning to read and understand content infor- one optional assignment, I asked students to watch the premiere of Hallmark’s Sweet Nothing in My Ear and write a review of the movie. Some of the posts were so enticing that those students who failed to watch the Visual supports, including graphic movie posted comments of regret. Aside from extrinsic motivation, the students started to organizers, handouts, manipulatives, and establish new relationships with one another based on other visual representations of information their blogs. They became critical readers reading both the text and the visual images that accompanied the are imperative for deaf and hard of hearing articles. In the comments section, I noticed that students students when they are learning to read began explaining to their peers how certain images had the power to elicit particular emotions and that and understand content information (Kluth sometimes these pictures were used as a parody. Stu- 2008) dents not only made connections with peers but they also were more interested in discussing their writing. (Continued on page 5)
  5. 5. Page 5 (Blogging in the Deaf Education Classroom cont.) (Continued from page 4) This format of writing fosters authentic One student began coming more regularly to my office opportunities to build a community of trust during office hours and frequently made appointments that enables students to “own” their writing. to discuss her blog-writing. Prior to the blogging pro- ject, the student had only come to office hours when the appointments were mandatory. attempting new language and for correcting any mis- The students also started to show ownership of their use. Overall, the students authentically practiced Eng- writing and reported feeling like writers. Because they lish outside of the classroom. understood who they were writing for and had a clear audience and purpose for their posts, their writing be- This format of writing fosters authentic opportunities to came much more clear. They even differentiated the build a community of trust that enables students to necessity for more formal writing in their posts from “own” their writing. Blogging empowers students as casual writing including slang and computer acronyms writers enabling them to become aware of their own in the comments section. The students almost unani- voice, a sense of audience and purpose, a community of mously differentiated their writing styles between more writers, and multiple perspectives and feedback academic writing in the posts to more casual tones us- through blog comments. ing computer jargon such as “LOL” and “OMG” in the Allen, T. (1986). Patterns of academic achievement among hearing impaired students: 1974 comments sections. I noticed that they were more will- and 1983. In A. Schildroth & M. Karchmer (Eds.) Deaf Children in America (161- 206). San Diego, CA: Little Brown. ing and perhaps able to attempt spoken language ver- Bertein, M. (2004). Do Weblogs Improve Writing? Retrieved on April nacular. 04, 2008 from DoWeblogsImproveWriting.html. Their writing in Blogger allowed me to assess whether Blood, R. (2000). Weblogs: A History and Perspective, Rebecca's Pocket. Retrieved on or not they could apply what they learned in class into September 28, 2008 from their everyday writing. In particular, students still Helmond, A. (2008). How Many Blogs Are There? Is Someone Still Counting? Blog Herald. Retrieved June 2, 2008, from struggled with differentiating between gerund and in- many-blogs-are-there-is-someone-still-counting/ finitive use. One student wrote, “You intend to going to Holt, J.A., Traxier, C.B., and Allen, T.E. (1997). Interpreting the Scores: A User's Guide to basketball this weekend.” This was an opportunity for the 9th Edition Stanford Achievement Test for Educators of Deaf and Hard-of- Hearing Students. Gallaudet Research Institute Technical Report 97-1. Washington, me to talk to the student one-on-one and remind her of D.C.: Gallaudet University. the rules. Similarly, another student misused the term Mitchell, R. E.& Karchmer, M. A.(2006). Demographics of Deaf Education: More Stu- bookworm and called one of her peer’s a “wormbook”. dents in More Places. American Annals of the Deaf , 151(2), 95-104. This was another moment to applaud the student for Kluth, Paula (2008). “It was Always the Pictures…”: Creating Visual Literacy Supports for Students with Disabilities. In N.Frey and D. Fisher Teaching Visual Literacy: Using Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Anime, Cartoons and More to Develop Com- prehension and Thinking Skills (169-188). Thousand Oaks, CA, Corwin Publishing. Their blogs allowed me to assess whether Lenhart, A. & Fox. S. (2006). Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internets new storytellers. Wash- ington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved June 2, 2008, from or not they could apply what they learned 06.pdf in class into their everyday writing. Schirmer, B.R. & McGough, S.M. (2005). Teaching reading to children who are deaf: do the conclusions of the national reading panel apply? Review of Educational Re- search; 75(1), 83-117.
  6. 6. Page 6 Books I’m looking forward to reading…. My friends know that I have a hard you more, I CAN direct you to the (April 15, 2009) time keeping secrets; however, if I comments section on my blog-> Product Description spill the beans from every author This collection features the best arti- presentation-deaf-comic-book- who sends me Advanced Reading cles and poems by Deaf activist and where you can find characters.html Copies or manuscripts, I’ll never 1968 California Teacher of the Year on correspondence between one of receive any tips in the future. So subjects ranging from communication the comic book artists and me! for now, I’m just going to give you and language to humorous insights on some teasers. For now, I’m looking forward to his own activities. these books: Recently, I reviewed a manuscript Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony with a main character who is an quot;Vignettes of the Deaf Charac- John ASL-using Deaf teen. This charac- terquot;: And Other Plays by Willy A deaf seventeen-year-old manages ter is awesome and I can’t wait for Conley her high school rock band to both this book to be published. The Gallaudet University Press; 1st Edition humorous and devastating effect, will (May 15, 2009) storyline kept me interested be published by Dial (2010) throughout and the author’s Deaf Product Description Characters are even more inter- Deaf master playwright Willy Conley esting! “The narrator's motivation for features deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing characters created from the And, this week, I was contacted by managing her high school rock band Deaf perspective. a Reading Recovery Program is that she plans to attend Gallaudet editor who will be including a I Fill This Small Space: The Writ- Deaf Character as the main char- and her parents have just blown her ings of a Deaf Activist (Deaf acter in a whole series of educa- Lives Series) by Lawrence New- entire college fund. I guess this tional comics! I can’t wait to share man means you'd be her professor!” this will you. Although I can’t tell Gallaudet University Press; 1st Edition -email correspondence with Antony John Thanks for Giving me a Head’s Up! I scour through the selves contact me to draw my A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A search engines, the attention to such books. Melodrama by Laura Amy book release Schlitz Thanks to librarian Ann G. from notices, the major New York for sharing this book Reading level: Young Adult book sellers’ web- with me. Ann explains that while Paperback: 400 pages sites and inevitably, the Deaf Character isn't the main Publisher: Candlewick (2006) I miss books with character, she plays a pivotal The Deaf Character, Muffet, is Deaf Characters. role in the story. I just started a secondary character who Thankfully readers reading this one. communicates with quot;signsquot;. and authors them-
  7. 7. Page 7 Awards and Honors will be officially announced in May School for the Deaf in the early 1900s, 2010. similar to the author's late mother, Elizabeth Rowe. The plot is amazing! The Historic Sites Association partners with the Writer's Alliance of New- You can also check out my review of foundland and Labrador to present a The Silent Time in the Fall 2008 issue of the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage and History Book Award for a work of fiction, non-fiction, po- Studies Journal! etry, or young adult/children's litera- ture that exemplifies excellence in the interpretation of the history and heri- tage of Newfoundland and Labrador. A shortlist is selected and the winner is announced in December of that year. Let's cross our fingers because Congratulations to Myron Uhlberg! The Silent Time by Paul Rowe has His picture book Dad, Jackie, and Me made the short list!!! I read this book has been selected to be on the Vir- last December and it became one of ginia Young Readers’ Choice list for my favorite reads of the year.... and is 2009-2010. This children’s choice still one of my favorites. The deaf award is sponsored by the Virginia character, Dulcie attends the Halifax State Reading Association. Winners Pajka-West, Sharon. “Paul Rowe. The Silent Time” Rev. of The Silent Time. How to Start Blogging Newfoundland and Labrador Studies Journal 23.2 (Fall 2008): 267-269. While the idea my seem daunting, blogging isn’t that difficult. First and foremost, I recommend that YOU start a blog before encouraging your students to do so. Here is how to start blogging in 5 easy steps: 1. Find a blogging platform. I use Blogger ( because I’m most familiar with it; I find it easy to use; and, it is FREE! 2. Find your niche. What is your purpose for blogging and what will you choose to post? Remember that you can’t write for everyone. So, pick your audience. I try not to stray away from my Deaf Characters topic on 3. Pick a strong http address. If I had to do it all over again, I would never select! It tells you nothing about my topic and now it is simply too late to change (sigh!). 4. Once you select your platform, follow the easy steps to set up your layout. Remember, you can always make changes! Preferred Blogging Platforms by % 5. Finally, don’t freak out about your first post. While it is important to proofread (I graph by Michael Pick, 2007 know my friends are laughing that I wrote that because I don’t proofread very often), you can always go back and edit your work.
  8. 8. Favorite Fall Moment: Meeting Author Sharon Creech Read the YADC blog! E-mail us! Visit her website at: With the popularity of the internet, authors realize that they need to be accessible to their fans via the web. Below you might be interested in visiting some of the websites of authors who include Deaf Characters in their novels. Jacqueline Woodson, Feathers Jodi Cutler Del Dottore, Rally Caps Doug Cooney, Leading Ladies Sarah Miller, Miss Spitfire Delia Ray, Signing Hands Penny Warner, Connor Westphal Mysteries Lauraine Snelling, A Touch of Grace Ginny Rorby, Hurt Go Happy Christine Harris, Mask of the Jackal Jean Ferris, Of Sound Mind Rachel Stolzman, The Sign for Drowning David Mack, Marvel Comics’ Daredevil Meg Burden, Northlander Sherryl Jordan, The Raging Quiet ml Teri Brown, Read My Lips Donna Jo Napoli, Marlee Matlin, Deaf Child Crossing Janice Graham, The Tailor’s Daughter Josh Swiller, The Unheard Joyce Dunbar, Moonbird